On a recent visit to Milwaukee, I stopped at one of my favorite "beer hunting" sites - Ray's Wine in Wauwatosa - to see if there was anything that I absolutely couldn't live without. Just across from Ray's is a place called John's Sandwich Shop. One of the owners of Ultra Fidelis told me one time, "John's may have the best breakfast in Milwaukee. You ought to try it out sometime." Since it was just past 9 a.m. that particular day, and I hadn't had breakfast, I decided to go across the street to John's for a quick meal.
John's Sandwich Shop is located in a 50+ year old strip mall on North Avenue (see map). The original business in the space was a Heinemann's family restaurant, chain of restaurants that had been in business since 1923. In the early 60's, Heinemann's relocated to a larger space on 76th Ave. and John Cantor opened John's Sandwich Shop in the building. In 1989, Peter Hyndiuk, a banquet manager who had worked at a number of upscale hotels in the greater Milwaukee area; and his wife, Kris, a psychologist working in a local hospital, bought the greasy spoon restaurant from Cantor.
There are a lot of places that specialized in breakfast in the greater Milwaukee area - one of the reasons Heinemann's went out of business a couple years ago. George Webb's is the king of greasy spoons in the Milwaukee area with over 30 locations in the SE Wisconsin region. The first thing the Hyndiuk's wanted to do is distance themselves from those other restaurants that specialized in breakfast served anytime. Their breakfast menu consists of more eclectic and healthful items such as asparagus and pine nut omelets, turkey sausage wraps, and a banana walnut waffle that is made with wheat and barley from scratch.
Oh, you can get sandwiches at John's, just as their name implies. It's just that some of their sandwiches are rather unique including the toasted Granny Smith apple/melted gruyere cheese sandwich, the zucchini and yellow squash veggie burger, and the cranberry/turkey sandwich on toasted honey oat bran bread. Some of the in-season sides include figs and cooked turnips. On Friday's, they serve fish and fish tacos.
The Hyndiuk's also own their very own coffee farm in Costa Rica. Once a year, the Hyndiuk's take a working vacation to Central America to harvest beans to bring back with them to use in their restaurant. Small bags of the coffee beans are available at John's Sandwich Shop.
John's Sandwich Shop is not very big. The interior is reminiscent of a 1950's coffee shop with the grill behind a tall serving counter. There's a sit down counter (where I sat) and a number of tables and small booths throughout the place. There's also sidewalk dining along North Ave. But being that it's such a busy street - it's the main drag through Wauwatosa - I would think it would be pretty loud sitting out there.
A pleasant young gal gave me a menu and asked if I wanted anything to drink at that point. I just opted for water for the time being as I perused the somewhat eclectic and interesting menu. I was thinking of just getting a sausage, mushroom and cheese omelet, but that wasn't one of the choices. And it didn't appear that they had a "make your own" option for omelets on the menu. They had a spinach/crab meat omelet (one of those went by me as I was waiting on my food and it smelled sort of "fishy"); a vegetarian omelet and an avocado, bacon, cheddar cheese and chopped tomato omelet topped with salsa and sour cream. None of those sounded very good to me.
I thought about the French Toast, but they use a whole grain bread for their version. I'm not big on that for French Toast. They had a handful of what they called "scramblers" including the "Meat Lovers" scrambler - chopped ham, sausage, and bacon with scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese mixed in with American fries. I ordered that with a side of whole wheat toast.
I was pleasantly surprised with the portions served at John's Sandwich Shop. I immediately knew there was going to be no way I could finish the whole plate of food the waitress presented to me. I made a significant dent in the Meat Lover's scrambler, though. It had a very good taste to the meal. The cheese wasn't overpowering as it can be on some similar breakfast dishes. I would have rather had ground sausage chunks than chopped up sausage links, but it wasn't a deal buster by any means. I made sure to eat the meat portion of the meal while I left an amount of the fried potatoes when I finally finished.
Although the Hyndiuk's say one of the reasons they don't take credit cards is to keep the price of their meals in check, I would say the value of the meal was a little low. With a glass of milk and the tip, my breakfast came to just over $14 bucks. I thought that to be a little high priced for a breakfast. But it was very good and John's Sandwich Shop has that sort of retro ambiance that makes it comfortable and inviting. The service was very good and it's no wonder why my dealer friend told me why he thinks its one of the best places for breakfast in Milwaukee. It's the kind of place that I know my wife would really like and I'll have to take her there on our next trip to Milwaukee.